Crime rates in Bulgaria on the decrease In January 2005 the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) released its report ·Crime Trends in Bulgaria: Police Statistics and Victimisation Surveys”. Given the present outcry by politicians and those in the executive branch, deploring a troubling increase in criminal activity, the CSD study came up with unexpected information: the crime rates in the country over the period of 2001-2004 have actually decreased, and are at a level similar to that in western European countries and the United States. CSD’s independent analysis of the crime situation also yielded some other facts, which call for a new look at crime and the methods that society and the state use to measure it: - The proportion of people who became crime victims in the period 2001-2004 fell from 17% to 14%. The total number of crimes committed also decreased, from nearly 600,000 in 2001 to 300,000 in 2004. - About 53% of the crimes committed in Bulgaria are not reported to the police by the victims. - The police do not register a significant portion of the crimes reported by citizens. The system for evaluating police work creates incentives for those at various levels to seek ways and means to cover up and manipulate the true crime figures. - Amongst the main reasons for the fall in crime are: a lower number of youths in the high-risk age group (age 15-25), lower unemployment, more active countermeasures by the police and the judicial system, and the emigration of part of the criminal population to Western Europe. The discrepancy between the CSD study and the general public’s heightened sensitivity towards crime especially at the common, petty-crime level - and desire for harsher punishments for the perpetrators is clear, and raises a series of questions. Most of these questions concern the effectiveness of the criminal justice system - the Interior Ministry, the investigative service, the prosecutors, the courts - but there are also issues regarding the behaviour of the media, which see crime as a hot-selling item, and of corruption, bureaucracy, the increased predominance of crime as a topic of political dialogue, etc. No less astonishing is the discrepancy between the data that show a reduction in crime and the results of the BHC investigation of prisons and investigation detention facilities, which show a trend of an increasing number of convictions in Bulgaria.